Oct 23, 2013
When developing games, there has to be some form of diversity, in order to maintain the authenticity of your character.
But over the past few years, we have had a number of characters who could be brothers. For me, the trend is white male, with near-shaven head. Other than this, it also comes down to the futuristic armour, or near-future gear for your soldier. All based around masculinity. Despite this, I feel we are coming out of this trend, as many developers are learning that in order to gain the attention of the public, you have to be unique.
What was the last game you played with a female lead? Was it overly sexualised? The likelihood is that yes, they were. However the industry is gaining traction in this department, with games such as Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us presenting female characters that were not there to act as sex symbols. Which would be wrong due to their age, anyway. However, they are still stereotypically presented as young females for a reason. What is this reason, you ask? Well, they are counting on the gamer to be male, siding with the main hero, and feel overly protective of a young female adolescent. Whilst there is nothing all too wrong with this, they are still targeting their audience specifically, with one stereotypical audience in mind.
Take Lara Croft. The pin-up on the industry for two decades, there is no doubt there is a creepy pixel-loving following behind the heroine. The last installment of Tomb Raider managed to present a more adult, and less sexualised adventure for the character, which provided a realistic and overall fun experience. Compare this to previous entries that have her scantily clad climbing mountains, and you can see why the experience is more immersive. Bayonetta is another good example, as although it is a quality game, it went under the radar. Whether this was down to a female lead is debatable, yet there is no doubt that the overly sexualised nature of this weird and wonderful female lead was evident.
Another trend in recent games is the cover art. Think of a first-person-shooter. Is that guy carrying a gun with an explosive background? I bet it is. Maybe it’s over his shoulder. This is partially down to gamer reactions, as people can be easily swayed by a cover. Bioshock Infinite is an incredibly creative and innovative game, yet had to take this route because many consumers would simply dismiss the game based upon it’s complex story. The developers still hint towards their more artistic side, by providing gamers with alternative cover arts. Opting for a guy with a gun seems to create larger sales. However, in recent news Quantic Dreams refused to display a cover of Ellen Page with a gun for Beyond: 2 Souls, showing some form of evolution in how developers portray their games in the wider media. Whether that has affected sales or not, remains to be seen.
Ethnic protagonists are also quite low, yet again, this is increasing. Starhawk had a black lead, alongside Prototype, and GTA V had Franklin as one of the main character. When San Andreas was announced, there was a lot of criticism at the time, which seems ridiculous when you think about it now.
Yet there is still a trend in the industry to focus on a white male, something which the Western World can align with. Assassin’s Creed III opted for a Native American character, yet still revolved around American ideology. The main character, Desmond, has been formed so he is in the family tree of all these adventurers. So his ethnicity is again key to the plot itself, and it would make you wonder that is such a plot point were not necessary, if he would match the stereotypes otherwise.
Even when other ethnic groups are represented in-game, they are often submitted to stereotypes. Diversity can lead to gamers experiencing the world through another’s eyes, and see how it differs entirely, depending on race or gender. Mass Effect allows you to play as a female character, with great voice acting and the story line adapting to differing conversations. Although centering a lot of attention on the female Commander Shepard, all the promotional material still depicts the male counterpart; which seems to reinforce tradition.
If a character is truly unique and interesting, then factors such as gender or race should not matter. I am sure the population would be happy to play a quality title no matter what a character looks like. All that matters is that they are believable, and manage to deliver a great story-line from their perspective.